This is the first post in a series of posts about 四字熟語. These are the four character idioms which form an important part of Japanese language and culture. For those who seriously pursue Japanese language and try to get a job over there, there’s a good chance that one of the interview questions will be related; maybe something like, “What is your favorite 四字熟語?”
This phrase was Takayasu’s chosen phrase for his promotion to Ozeki. It translates roughly to, “fair and square,” but as with most sayings in other languages, there’s more meaning behind it. We can get a good sense of the meaning from the way Hakuho battled Tochinoshin on the belt in this latest tournament. Rather than resorting to dame-oshi, or avoiding Tochinoshin’s preferred method of attack, Hakuho went at him squarely in a great belt battle. This kind of sportsmanship is celebrated in many cultures, not including the New England Patriots.
There’s a fantastic manga called, “Chibi Maruko-chan no Yojijyukugo Kyoshitsu” (ちびまる子ちゃんの四字熟語教室) by Sakura Momoko. Chibi Maruko-chan is a popular manga character, like Doraemon, who has a whole host of books, available here. This one gives great explanations and examples for each of these four-character phrases. I’ve shared a picture of this particular page.
This book gives a similar example to our Hakuho example. It talks about a Judo final where one of the judoka has an injury and the opponent fights in a way to avoid the injury rather than to take advantage of it.
11 thoughts on “正正堂堂”
Thanks for the language and cultural lesson. And thanks again for confirming what I thought I saw in Hakuho. In light of the win at all costs paradigm that we see far too often that loss seems to me the sign of a truly great champion. I sense that the sumo gods were pleased.
If 正正堂堂 sounds like sei sei dou dou, what is the hiragana sound of 四字熟語 ? I started learning hiragana 4 days ago and am up to the Na-No line right now, lol. That H-T matchup on day 12 was great. One of my top 5 from the May honbasho. Maybe I clarified it myself using g-translate: Yojijukugo. So the 四字熟語 says “a 4 symbol phrase” and the 正正堂堂 is a particular example phrase about ‘fair and square’. Would さっぱり , sappari, be related? I saw it yesterday in the movie Hospitalité (2010) which my library offers online with simultaneous Eego/Japanese subtitles to help learn.
I wrote down that it means : clean/honest but there was more to it in the context.
The hiragana is よじじゅくご. My understanding of さっぱり is that it is more of a desirable, positive quality in a woman’s character/personality.
Ah yes, it was a woman talking about how her sister-in-law has silly dreams about studying overseas and the guy used that phrase sarcastically to tell her that she was very good at reading peoples motives because she has sappari. (he knew she was stealing money from the business herself)
The movie dealt a lot with how people can speak politely but convey disrespect and a lot went over my head. Thanks Andy!
New England Patriots? Not exactly a shining example of “fair and square” sportsmanship. They would take advantage of the injury at every opportunity.
Hence the joke, “not including the New England Patriots.”
Ahh.. i totally misread that. Well done! Just bought some t-shirts too, thanks for the good coverage!
My jokes are pretty bad. I’m just happy someone read it. :)
And thank you for buying some shirts! @ me on Twitter and I’ll share the pics.
A joke that made me perhaps happier than it should have, but hey, Packers fan.
If you are having trouble inking these kanji onto your washi paper, may I offer
It often provides way too much information, but if you click the little kanji button, it will give you the correct stroke order for the little kanji Now, alas, there’s no excuse.